BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Joe Banner has played a significant role with Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam's group in its efforts to purchase the Cleveland Browns, an NFL source involved in the negotiations said.
Banner's role with the Haslam group if the purchase is finalized has not yet been determined, the source said. But based on Banner's comments last month when he stepped down as Eagles president and said that he wanted to run the day-to-day operations of an NFL team, it is likely he will have a senior position and possibly own a stake in the Browns.
Banner had no comment when reached by The Inquirer on Saturday.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Haslam's purchase of the Browns could be finalized by the start of the season and that Banner could possibly end up being president of the team.
Banner, 59, still holds a position with the Eagles as senior adviser to owner Jeffrey Lurie, but he no longer has any say in football decisions or on the business side of the team. The Eagles had no comment, but Lurie had made it clear in June that Banner, in his words, was "a free agent."
It apparently didn't take long for Banner to get snatched up. During his 18-year tenure with the Eagles, he helped spearhead the building of Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex, the team's practice facility.
Banner also became an expert with the league's salary cap, allowing the Eagles to consistently maintain their homegrown talent while also signing talent away from other teams when necessary.
He became a lightning rod for fans and some reporters, however, who didn't like his public demeanor when defending the team.
The sale of the Browns, currently owned by Randy Lerner, will have to be approved by a committee of NFL owners. Haslam owns a small portion of the Steelers. The Browns, with an estimated worth of $977 million, according to Forbes, have had only three winning seasons in the last 19 years.
If the sale goes through before the start of the season, Banner would potentially face his former team with the Eagles traveling to Cleveland for the opener on Sept. 9.
Mike Holmgren is the Browns' president. The former Packers and Seahawks coach is in the third year of a five-year contract. Holmgren mentored Eagles coach Andy Reid in Green Bay. Former Eagles general manager Tom Heckert is also in Cleveland as the Browns' GM.
Babin strains calf
Jason Babin left Saturday's practice early with a strained right calf, according to the Eagles.
The defensive end injured his calf during a one-on-one drill against tackle Todd Herremans. Babin will have a magnetic resonance image done on his calf Sunday. The Eagles said the injury did not involve his Achilles tendon.
Brandon Graham filled in mostly for Babin on the first team after he left the afternoon session and notched a sack during team drills.
Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon also left practice early with cramps.
Punter Mat McBriar can't practice with the Eagles until Wednesday, but he kicked on his own today after the morning walk-through. He boomed most of his practice kicks and could challenge incumbent punter Chas Henry for a roster spot. . . . Second-year guard Julian Vandervelde split repetitions at backup center with Dallas Reynolds during team drills. . . . Cornerbacks Joselio Hanson and Curtis Marsh were the extra defensive backs on the Eagles' first-team dime defense. DeMeco Ryans was the lone linebacker. . . . Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins lined up at end on several plays. . . . Brent Celek (knee sprain) did not practice for the second straight day. Clay Harbor and Brett Brackett split first team reps in his place. . . . The Eagles announced that standing-room-only tickets will go on sale July 31 at 10 a.m. for all eight regular-season home games.